Guide to WaterWorld at Universal Studios Hollywood

September 30, 2023
Plane lands on water in front of large explosion on metal structure in background.

Explosions. Firefights. Plane crashes. Being really, really damp all the time. That’s just reality for the characters in the WaterWorld show at Universal Studios Hollywood. This long-running show has entertained and amazed guests since 1995, making it the highest-rated show at Universal Studios Hollywood. The attraction features eye-popping stunt work, thousands of pyrotechnic effects, and 50-foot fireballs — it’s totally unlike any other attraction at the theme park. 

In short, WaterWorld is a total blast. (Pun very much intended.) Here’s everything you need to know about this can’t-miss experience at Universal Studios Hollywood.


Woman operates flat boat in water, with large rusty metal structure in background at the WaterWorld show at Universal Studios Hollywood.

At an undisclosed date in the future, the globe is (almost) completely ocean. The polar ice caps have melted, and the sea levels have risen so high they’ve blanketed most of civilization. The surviving humans live on makeshift, floating metal structures called Atolls. The WaterWorld show takes place on an Atoll. 

The show opens with one of our heroes, Helen, returning to the Atoll with great news: She’s found Dryland! But, there’s bad news, too. Helen is being tailed by the evil Smokers, the threatening crew of aquatic bandits. What follows is a 20-minute stunt spectacular, where the Atollers and the Smokers duke it out in pursuit of the mythical Dryland.


At the WaterWorld show, two men in fishing gear throw buckets of water on Universal Studios Hollywood guests in bleachers.

To ensure seating, plan to arrive at the event 20 minutes before showtime. You can find WaterWorld showtimes in the Universal Studios Hollywood app or listed outside the venue. (The showtimes listed are when the actual show starts, not when you should get there!) Once seated, you’ll be treated to an entertaining pre-show from some of the Atollers. 

PRO TIP: The green benches are the SPLASH ZONE — it’s the first five or so rows in each section. Plan to get wet if you sit in those areas, especially if you’re in the center section!

Man in fishing apparel launches water from a water cannon at audience.

FYI, the pre-show Atollers are very liberal with their water launchers. Folks in the Splash Zone are likely to get soaked. While that’s amazing news on a hot day, take the appropriate consideration while picking your seats. Come on, the attraction is called WaterWorld — did you think everyone would stay bone dry?


Man leans off of large flatbed boat made of rusty metal at the WaterWorld show at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The WaterWorld show at Universal Studios Hollywood goes a little something like this: the show opens with Helen returning to the Atoll. She’s found the mythical Dryland, and she’s brought dirt back with her to prove it. But the Smokers, who too want the Dryland for themselves, are hot on her tail. At first, the Atollers try to keep the Smokers out using water cannons, which is futile — she hurdles herself from a scrap metal tower just seconds before it collapses beneath her. 

Think things are bad for Helen now? Enter: the Deacon. 

The leader of the Smokers will do whatever it takes to take the Dryland as his own — starting with kidnapping Helen. When she refuses to tell him the location of the Dryland, the Deacon has his Smokers drop an Atoller into a vat of some kind of toxic sludge. It’s looking rough for Helen. But she catches a lucky break when our maverick hero, the Mariner, erupts from underwater via jet ski! (The Mariner uses a jet ski to get around WaterWorld, and looks totally rad doing it.) 

Two men on jet skis with water spraying everywhere.

The remainder of the WaterWorld show is an epic battle between the Atollers and the Smokers, with the Mariner and the Deacon leading each side. There’s so much going on in the WaterWorld show, you really just need to see it for yourself, but let’s walk through a few of the show’s biggest moments:

  • A 50-foot fireball reaches into the sky 
  • A seaplane crashes right before your eyes
  • A character catches on fire and plunges into the sea 
  • A massive fuel tank explosion, taking the Atoll down 

FUN FACT: The WaterWorld pool isn’t heated, and while it can warm up in the summer months, that makes it chilly in the wintertime. Luckily, the performers have a hot tub backstage to warm them up.

Wide shot of an explosion on a large scrap metal structure floating on water at the WaterWorld show at Universal Studios Hollywood.

But it’s not just fancy effects. The WaterWorld performers are world-class stage fighters — it’s truly incredible to behold. Remember, kids: don’t attempt the WaterWorld show at home.


Man stands on jet ski looking back on large explosion behind him.

Here are the nuts and bolts you need to know about WaterWorld at Universal Studios Hollywood:

  • Runtime: 20 minutes
  • Showtimes vary; check the Official Universal Studios Hollywood App on the day of your visit
  • Universal Express Pass is available
  • Reserved seating for VIP Experience tours
  • All ages welcome, but parental discretion is advised
  • Guests may remain in ECV or standard wheelchair 
  • Assistive listening headsets available at Guests Services


WaterWorld has some of the most impressive performers at Universal Studios Hollywood, and oftentimes, they’re are available for photo ops after the show. If they are, this happens at the arena exit, right near the big, dead hammerhead shark. (You can’t miss it.) Make all your followers jealous with a selfie with the Mariner, Helen, and the Atollers — or, if you can brave it, with the terrifying Smokers. 


Close-up of fountain with statues of a director, a camera operator and an actor in it, and sign reading "Hollywood."

Once the WaterWorld show wraps, you’ll walk down the bleachers and find yourself in the Hollywood section of Universal Studios Hollywood. (Yep, it’s meta like that.) Grab a meal at Hollywood and Dine, and don’t miss out on more photo ops with classic characters on Hollywood Boulevard. From the Universal Classic Monsters to Marilyn, enviable selfie opportunities await you. And don’t forget to buy souvenirs from your favorite rides, lands and characters at the Universal Studios Store!

That’s it for our guide to WaterWorld at Universal Studios Hollywood. What’s your favorite part of this stunt spectacular? Let us know in the comments.

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